Residents rallied in opposition to a proposed development they said would eliminate downtown green space, but the city approved the sale of a property near Pineapple Park.
Although dozens of speakers voiced their opposition, the Sarasota City Commission voted 3-1 to approve the sale of a piece of land along Lemon Avenue near Pineapple Park.
The vote authorizes the sale of the city-owned parcel to commercial real estate firm Hembree and Associates. The group, which is also developing an adjacent property next to the State Street parking garage, would pay $260,000 for 5,409 square feet of downtown land.
Green space advocates organized against the sale, arguing that the land — which includes a strip of grass in front of the Northern Trust bank parking garage — is functionally part of the nearby park. Although the land is technically designated as right-of-way, so is a significant portion of the park; many residents pushed for the city to incorporate the land into Pineapple Park instead.
The prospective developer, which would be entitled to build a two-story building on the land, sold the proposal as a way to improve a struggling piece of public property. A building might make the park smaller, but it would also encourage more activity — a perspective echoed by Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell and Commissioner Liz Alpert.
“The bigger issue is that this is going to enhance that park,” Alpert said. “It will draw people from Main Street to head down that way, which they don’t do now.”
Commissioner Susan Chapman was the lone vote against the deal. She said she believed the will of the public was against the sale of the park, and accused city staff of mischaracterizing the proposal to allow the purchase to move forward.
“I think the real issue is what we’re giving up,” Chapman said. “We’re giving up space owned by the city — for a price that is really, really low — that is meaningful to the public.”